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Inspirational obstruction blown away.

Inspirational obstruction blown away

Obstructive sleep apnea, a lull in breathing due to a temporarily collapsed throat, can arouse sufferers hundreds of times a night. The resulting daytime drowsiness (boosting car accident rates by seven to 10 times),hypertension and heart failure can all shorten lives. Two to 5 percent of North Americans and Europeans, including perhaps 25 percent of the elderly, may suffer from the condition. Removing part of the soft palate and the dangling uvula at the back of the throat reduces snoring, but appears less effective in reducing apnea itself. It doesn't cut the patient's risk of early death, says John E. Remmers of the University of Calgary in Alberta.

Fortunately for apnea sufferers, a new, noninvasive therapy appears effective. Breathing stops when the soft part of the throat collapses during attempts to suck in air. "If you put positive air pressure on the back of the [throat], you can essentially blow the air passage open," Remmers says. Called nasal CPAP (for continuous positive airway pressure), the treatment supplies air pressure through a nose mask at night.

While retrospective studies show CPAP eliminates apnea and may extend life expectancies, "some patients cannot tolerate it or don't want to tolerate it," Remmers says. "Typically it's age related -- a young man doesn't want to look like Darth Vader at night with his girlfriend, and so he's rather have surgery."
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Title Annotation:obstructive sleep apnea
Author:McKenzie, Aline
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 7, 1989
Words:230
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